Austrade spares no vertical in promoting Australian tech to the world

With the mining boom sustaining Australia's economy for many years, Austrade is now turning its focus to other areas Australia is thriving in, looking to promote the country's tech prowess to the rest of the world.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

It has been estimated that by 2020, there will be around 20.4 billion things globally connected to the internet, and according to the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), by this time the Asia-Pacific region will boast 11.7 billion connected devices.

Speaking at the GMIC Sydney conference on Tuesday, Annika Barton, senior investment advisor at Austrade, said it is expected that Australia will account for 230 million of those internet-connected devices -- an average of 9.3 devices per person.

"By 2020, the average Australian household will have around 29 internet-connected devices -- up from nine devices in 2015 -- and will spend AU$3.2 billion on connected devices and services by the end of the decade," she said.

"Global IoT market spend will be worth $1.3 trillion in 2019, and the Asia-Pacific region is predicted to maintain the majority share."

Labelling Australia a "tech-savvy" nation, Barton said the country's tech capabilities are demonstrated across its general population, with almost nine in 10 Australian adults actively using the internet, and almost all businesses connected online somehow.

"Online consumers spend an average of 24.2 hours a week on the internet," she said. "In the 12 months to May 2016, Australians spent AU$19.9 billion on online retail, and almost 90 percent of Australian households use mobile phones to access the internet, making it one of the most mobile-connected countries in the world, with mobile phone subscriptions currently exceeding 21 million."

Austrade aims to assist Australian companies to connect with buyers in offshore markets, attract foreign direct investment into Australia, and promote Australia's education sector internationally.

But with Australia punching above its weight in the research and development (R&D) space and boasting an above-average adoption of consumer technology, Barton said, Austrade is investing its energy heavily in the tech space.

"Austrade is working to identify niche areas of Australian capability across several disruptive technology subsectors," Barton explained.

"We see that Australia has three characteristics that underpin its ability to create, develop, and commercialise new digital technology products and services, and to incorporate existing technologies in new applications."

The characteristics, according to Austrade, are Australia's robust R&D ecosystem, natural advantages in key industries, and federal and state governments that support innovation.

"As a global hotspot for ICT innovation, Australia offers opportunities for investment in advanced ICT R&D," she added.

Covering the majority of technology-based buzzwords, Barton said Australia has "significant capability" in the areas of big data and analytics, automation, simulation and augmented reality, systems integration, cybersecurity, cloud, additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, in addition to IoT.

"This presents significant trade and investment opportunities for Australian exporters and is particularly relevant in rapidly developing areas such as health and medtech, fintech, smart cities, high value-add manufacturing, and cross-sectoral technologies," she said.

Austrade earlier this year facilitated a mission to New York that showcased Australia's blockchain capabilities in areas such as digital currency, payments, agricultural supply chains, smart contracts, and identity management to global players.

The blockchain-based mission followed a similar initiative facilitated by Austrade in February that saw 32 delegates promote Australia's cybersecurity capabilities and researchers at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.

Austrade was also given AU$11 million under Australia's AU$1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda to execute the federal government's Startup Landing Pad initiative.

Touted by the Australian government as giving entrepreneurs assistance to commercialise their products and services through access to the expertise, infrastructure, innovation, and marketing networks of local partners, the multimillion-dollar initiative sees landing pads active in Silicon Valley, Shanghai, Berlin, Singapore, and Tel Aviv.

Also on Tuesday, the New South Wales government announced the funding of startup incubator Eighteen04 in Newcastle, with the AU$300,000 cash injection expected to provide 20 extra desk spaces for startup clients.

"When the Eighteen04 incubator launched in 2015 it was Australia's first incubator focused exclusively on supporting clean technology and smart cities startups," Deputy Premier and Minister for Small Business and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said.

Jobs for NSW, the private sector-led and NSW government-backed initiative aimed at boosting business, will also be working with Eighteen04 to help startups in the Hunter region through their development.


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